Capistrano teacher strike enters second day

About 250 supporters of the Capistrano Unified teachers strike gathered at school district headquarters. They chanted,
About 250 supporters of the Capistrano Unified teachers strike gathered at school district headquarters. They chanted, "Shame on you, shame on you," directed at school district board members and in unison chanted a song by the heavy-metal band Twisted Sister, "We're not going to take it. We're not going to take it, anymore."
Adolfo Guzman Lopez/KPCC

Capistrano Unified School District teachers were on strike for a second day today over 10.1 percent pay cuts, as union negotiators were expected back at the bargaining table this afternoon.

Updated 11:31 a.m.

All 56 schools in the district were picketed yesterday, and attendance across elementary, middle and high schools was less than 50 percent.

The district averages 96 percent student attendance, but on Thursday, attendance was estimated to be about 48 percent at the elementary schools, 41 percent at middle schools and 24 percent at the high schools.

However, all schools remained open and about 600 substitute teachers were hired to fill the void.

Pay cuts of a 10.1 percent were instituted to help balance the district's budget. The Capistrano Unified Education Association, which has about 2,200 teachers as members, has agreed to the pay cuts – but only if their pay is restored on June 30, 2011.

The pay cuts are projected to save the district about $19.9 million, but the district still needs to close a $34 million budget gap.

Union and district negotiators talked last afternoon and night, but no progress was reported, and the two sides are to meet again beginning at 1 p.m.

The strike is the first by educators in Orange County in a decade. Teachers in the Capistrano school district last struck in 1974, the Orange County Register reported.

School board President Anna Bryson said Thursday went as smoothly as could be expected.

"We had a substitute teacher in every class in every grade level in every school for the children who attended school today," Bryson said. "And that is an incredible feat of organization, and I'm very proud of our administrative staff."

Twelve percent of the district's teachers crossed picket lines, district spokeswoman Julie Hatchel said. Those who struck won't get paid.

Some unsupervised students at San Clemente Junior High School made a mess of one classroom, turning all the desks upside down, but no major problems were reported.

One bus driver did not want to cross a picket line, so the school's staff arranged to meet the students nearby and escort them to class, Hatchel said.

Reduced revenue from the state and poor financial planning left the school board with little choice but to impose the salary reductions, Bryson said. He said school administrators took a 10 percent pay cut last year, but because that affects only about 150 people, more cuts need to be made to balance the budget.